Regular Legal Schnauzer readers long have known that practicing journalism in Alabama can be a dangerous pursuit. In October 2013, I was beaten inside my own home, essentially the victim of a state-sanctioned kidnapping, and thrown in the Shelby County Jail for five months, becoming the only journalist in the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) to be incarcerated that year. That put Alabama in the company of countries such as Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Uganda.
Why did a deputy illegally enter our home and engage in police brutality when there wasn't even a whiff of a criminal allegation against me? Well, I was writing this blog, which had become displeasing to certain members of Alabama's political power structure. Montgomery, AL, attorney Tommy Gallion addressed the subject of attacks on journalists, and analyzed the terrifying nature of my experience, in his book Shadow Government, Southern Style. One valuable lesson from my glorified kidnapping: I learned in jail that inmates often ask each other, "What are you in here for?" My answer was, "I was arrested for blogging." That always drew a big laugh -- but it wasn't a joke.
Now, we learn of another Alabama journalist who came under siege for writing a blog -- and that is no joke either. We're talking about K.B. Forbes, publisher of banbalch.com and CEO of the CDLU public charity and advocacy group. Forbes' reporting has focused on a number of powerful entities -- Alabama Power, Southern Company, Balch & Bingham, and Drummond Company -- who were tied to the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal.
Forbes reports in a post yesterday that he and his family, who are Hispanic, were subjected to an intimidation campaign that became severe enough that they fled their Birmingham home and temporarily stayed in Mexico for safety reasons. [Forbes is the son of a Hispanic immigrant from Chile and his wife was born and raised in Mexico.]
This comes on the heels of a report about attorney Burt Newsome, who was targeted (along with his family), apparently because certain corporate types came to view him as a threat. That suggests practicing law in Alabama might not be safe either. But today, our focus is on journalism, as practiced by K.B. Forbes. He reports that anonymous sources have provided financial documents that help piece together the story behind the targeting of his family. Writes Forbes:
Now financial documents in our possession give a graphic snapshot of that bottomless pit and demonstrate the stunning depth the alleged criminal enterprise led by Alabama Power/Southern Company went to, to instill fear, terrorize, and intimidate an innocent Hispanic family, including two young girls. The Hispanic family was forced to flee Alabama because of threats to their safety.
After the murder of George Floyd, the summer of 2020 was a summer of racial reckoning and stunning setbacks for the alleged criminal enterprise.
The alleged racist law firm (and sister-wife of Alabama Power) Balch & Bingham lost their 18th of 18 major lobbying clients in Washington, D.C. Crosswhite’s drinking buddy U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town resigned in disgrace, while Southern Company was hit hard for foolishly calling the suppression of African Americans in North Birmingham a “hypothesis.” On top of that an elderly exploitation scandal erupted, creating headlines and headaches.
According to the financial records, Zeke Smith, Alabama Power Executive Vice President of External Affairs , authorized hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures through Matrix, the obscure political consulting firm founded by “Sloppy Joe” Perkins, the Oompa Loompa of Alabama politics.
In the summer of 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alabama Power/Southern Comapny allegedly and foolishly decided to target, harass, intimidate, and terrorize the Hispanic family, spending big bucks to do so, and gathering intelligence and detailed personal information about the (Hispanic) family.
How extreme and unnerving did all of this get? Forbes writes:
The terror and harassment included phone calls to the Hispanic mother demanding to know her location, asking if she was at home, and offering to “drop off a package.”
Here, now, is a stunning example of the incredible reach that the alleged Alabama Power/Southern Company criminal enterprise engaged in that will give you, our dear reader, goosebumps.
According to the documents that we received anonymously, Zeke Smith approved an expenditure on June 11, 2020 for software called Import Genius that tracks exports, imports, and the bill of lading associated with those transactions.
Alabama Power/Southern Company appear to have been digging into an export made by the Hispanic family to Mexico. It was the first and only export they had ever made.
And what were they exporting?
A Pottery Barn princess castle bed for their three-year-old daughter to a family home in Mexico.
The Hispanic family had received a Bill of Lading on June 11, 2020 and the alleged criminal enterprise appears to have known and learned about it that same day.
Were they illegally capturing private emails?
The Forbes family wound up being terrorized at their own home. Forbes tells the story:
As readers may recall, that summer an orchestrated campaign against Forbes was launched. With the anonymously received financial documents, we now know that Alabama Power/Southern Company funded the campaign.
This included the buffoons who sent fake protesters and paid actors to the wrong address, adjacent to and across the street from the home of the Forbes Family.
The buffoons terrorized the neighbor, who was washing dishes, and her teenage daughter. So petrified and traumatized, the neighbors moved from the community after living there for 14 years. She made a deposit on a new home six-days after the incident.
The buffoons also terrorized and traumatized Forbes’ then-eight-year old daughter who saw the protesters outside the window.
Thinking someone was dying like George Floyd, she ran and hid, crying.
All of this, Forbes writes, could have major legal repercussions:
With massive civil lawsuits and potential RICO actions, the foolish acts against innocent children paid for by Alabama Power/Southern Company, and allegedly authorized by Crosswhite and his posse, should cause more heads to roll.
Eventually, during the summer of 2020, K.B. Forbes joined his family in Mexico. That helped him find a dose of humor in a situation that was anything but amusing:
[Forbes] received an email from the FBI stating that they were “glad to hear” that he was safe with his family in Mexico.
Forbes looked over at his wife and quipped, “Well the FBI is saying that the Mexican cartel is safer than the clowns in Birmingham.”